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If you have an hour (a bus or train journey is perfect), listen to this episode of the consistently excellent Open Source radio programme (online, podcast, US public radio etc, hosted by Christopher Lydon) – Passion: Libraries. It’s a wide-ranging discussion of the role of the library (big and small) and I enjoyed it a lot. A number of interesting libraries were mentioned, including the iconic Boston Public Library (which I visited on my 21st birthday, although visit and birthday were not connected!) and the admired Vancouver Central Library.

With this discussion still in mind, I came across this report of EU approval for public wifi systems in Wales and Prague. No discussion of the incredible power of access to information, or the role of technology and knowledge in education, or even the levelling effect of no-questions-asked, no-money-required facilities; the key factor (once again) is whether any public proposal is going to ‘compete’ with private facilities. (If it does, it’s verboten). I don’t think anything as ambitious as a library (complete with books that are easily available through private sources – how horribly anti-competitive) would even get off the ground today, if the ‘modern’ market laws were applied to the project. Depressing.

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